Got a car to sell or a freelancer to pay? Charley Moore thinks you may soon be using a blockchain to do it.
Moore is the CEO of Rocket Lawyer, an online legal services company that prides itself on giving people super-simple, inexpensive ways to create legal contracts and provide access to lawyers. But speaking at MIT Technology Review’s Business of Blockchain conference, Moore said that the firm has always struggled with how to handle the complex payment schemes that often arise when people enter into legal agreements.
Automating the creation of contracts and letting people review them and even sign them electronically are relatively straightforward. But, as Moore told the audience at the MIT Media Lab, “what nobody really does today is pay for things—things that are important enough to put in a contract—in an automated way.”
Moore wants to change that by incorporating smart contracts that run on the Ethereum blockchain into the company’s offering. As he tells it, the new product, called Rocket Wallet, uses a “stablecoin” cryptocurrency that can be used to transfer funds between parties once a contract has been satisfied.
As an example, Moore used the scenario of two people, Karen, and Mike, entering into an agreement on sale of a car. Using Rocket Lawyer, Karen, the buyer, can have a contract drawn up that says she’ll pay half the price of the car immediately, and half after a 15-day waiting period to make sure the car works as expected. A sum of conventional money is then converted into stablecoin tokens. Half of those are transferred to Mike immediately, and the other half are released automatically once the terms of the contract are met.
Moore wouldn’t go into additional details about how Rocket Wallet work other than to say his company has had a beta test under way with about 100 users. The full public unveiling is slated for later this month.
If it works as advertised, it will be a major first. Despite tons of hype and enthusiasm, no one has yet integrated cryptocurrency into a mainstream, consumer-facing application. By using a stablecoin—which can be pegged to fiat money, another cryptocurrency, or algorithmic rules to keep its price stable—Moore and Rocket Lawyer believe they have found a way to avoid worries about crypto’s innate volatility.
The company is nothing if not adept at giving people a simple design for arranging legal agreements—something to which its 22 million customers can attest. What we’re still waiting to find out is whether it’s been able to pull off the same feat when there’s money on the line.